There is a plethora of heat-hurling competitors that may not get quite the recognition they deserve, which doesn’t bode well for fantasy owners who are hyper-focused on household names.
Still, although these guys aren’t true sleepers, they are a small collection of pitchers that have huge potential for a breakout season in 2010.
Take a look—you be the judge.
10. Luke Hochevar, Royals
Hochevar is quite possibly the biggest risk of a pitcher in recent years, and with good reason considering his track record over the past two years. The problem with looking at track records, though, is we often find ourselves deciding that is the deciding factor. Hochevar can garner strikes and at times showed the Royals organization and fantasy owners he is still worth a look.
9. Brett Anderson, A’s
Anderson offers MLB and fantasy owners a repertoire of dangerous off-speed pitches and power that is capable of dealing with the best of hitters if cultivated properly. Last year, the rookie went 11-11 with a 4.06 ERA but did have quite an impressive 150/45 strikeout to walk ratio. He is worthwhile in deeper leagues, and if he can keep his pitches from flattening out, he could be a worthwhile late round pick.
8. Francisco Liriano, Twins
Liriano has always been a top MLB prospect that the Twins still seriously believe in, and with good reason. Despite being hammered with injuries early in his career, his fastball is still peaking at 95 MPH, and his curveball is as dangerous as ever.
Liriano has impressed with his play in the Dominican Winter League, including his 10-strikeout performance in his last game before spring training. He is still to this day a fine sleeper candidate.
7. Jorge De La Rosa, Rockies
De La Rosa is another left-handed pitcher who uses both the fastball and curve to dominate his competition. De La Rosa had an impressive year last year, going 16-9, but did have an inflated ERA of 4.38. He has the right stuff, but he will need to curtail his wildness and learn how to sustain himself in games to elevate himself to a higher fantasy value.
6. David Price, Rays
Price is an interesting character who should open a lot of eyes this year, and if you’re looking for a diamond in the rough to add to your roster, he could be your man. Price is equipped with a myriad of quality pitches that offer both power and balance, and with his recent LASIK surgery, he feels he will have more success finding the zone.
Price will, however, have to cut down on last year’s 3.8 BB/9 rate if he is to yield better value, and he is slightly prone to giving up the long ball.
5. Rick Porcello, Tigers
Porcello is being viewed as having huge potential in 2010 after an impressive campaign in 2009. Last year, Porcello went 14-9 with a very nice 3.96 ERA, and during the latter half of the 2009 fantasy season he was all the rave. The only knock on Porcello from a fantasy standpoint is his K/9 rate wasn’t all that great (5.0), so he will need to improve upon that, which I think he will.
4. Randy Wells, Cubs
Wells literally came out of nowhere last year and impressed many with his ability to handle the hitters of the bigs as well as the pressure. Trust me, I owned this kid from the moment he got the nod, and he was nothing but gold. He can throw strikes, handle the game, and garner the wins.
Last year, Wells finished with a 12-10 record and a 3.05 ERA, and he would’ve had a couple more wins had the horrid Cubs pen not ruined some of those games.
3. Josh Johnson, Marlins
Johnson appears to most owners as a guy who is relatively new to the fantasy realm, and in a way he is, though he’s not new to pro ball. Johnson had a huge year in 2009, going 15-5 with a 3.23 ERA and a K/9 rate of 8.0, which is where that rate is for his career. If it wasn’t for his inconsistency, he would be ranked in the top 10, but he is still a quality pickup.
2. J.A. Happ, Phillies
Happ turned a lot of heads in Philly and made a lot of noise in the fantasy realm in 2009 with his breakout performance. Happ went 12-4 with a very impressive 2.93 ERA and 119 K’s, and you can expect bigger things from him in 2010 with the type of run support he has.
The one knock on Happ was his penchant for walking batters, which is costly in most leagues. He could also stand to improve upon a K/9 rate of 6.5 if he wants elevate himself to elite status.
1. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
Kershaw is widely viewed as a sleeper candidate waiting to happen, and this year could be the year. Kershaw started off strong last year but began to falter as time took its toll; still, he finished the year with an average 8-8 record and an impressive 2.79 ERA alongside 185 strikeouts.
But the thing is Kershaw rode a K/9 rate of 10, which will make him an absolute steal if he is still lingering around in the latter portion of your draft. He is worth serious consideration in your plans.